Health concerns with pesticides
Pesticides are chemical or biological agents that are used to protect crops from insects, weeds, and infections. There have been health concerns with pesticides for a number of years. Awareness of pesticides and their risk of harmful effects was discussed in Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” published in 1962.
According to the Word Health Organization,
- “Some of the older, cheaper pesticides can remain for years in soil and water. These chemicals have been banned from agricultural use in developed countries, but they are still used in many developing countries.”
- Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and lindane can stay in the soil for years.
- These chemicals have been banned by countries who signed the 2001 Stockholm Convention – an international treaty that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants.
Pesticides best practices worldwide
The WHO and FAO have jointly developed an International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management. This code of conduct helps to guide government regulators, the private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders on best practices in managing pesticides throughout production to disposal.
Pesticides in the United States
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) all play a role in regulating and measuring pesticides in food.
The EPA is responsible for regulating pesticides by enforcing the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act.
The EPA registers pesticides for use in the US, evaluates potential new pesticides and their proposed uses, reviews the safety of older pesticides, registers pesticide producers, and enforces pesticide requirements.
EPA has enacted stricter safety standards for infants and children and restricted many OP pesticides from residential use in order to reduce exposures in children.
The FDA oversees the safety of the U.S. food supply, which includes monitoring pesticide residues in food.
The USDA National Organic Program sets labeling standards for raw, fresh and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. The USDA Pesticide Data Program collects, analyzes, and reports pesticide residues on agricultural products in the U.S. food supply, particularly those highly consumed by infants and children.
Pesticides are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and milk, among other foods. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group discovered what they considered to be harmful levels of weed-killer in Cheerios and Quaker Oats products (There’s been some debate about whether these low levels are actually toxic.)
Different types of pesticides
Are organic fruits and vegetables more nutritious?
There is no conclusive evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food.
Streams and water life
Water life may be damaged by runoff. The pesticide, atrazine
, causes reproductive problems in the frogs.
Prevent exposure to pesticides
Trasande said there are a few simple steps people can take to limit their exposure, like not spraying pesticides in their backyards. He also recommended switching to organic foods when possible, though even organic produce can also contain pesticides
University of Washington School of Public Health
World Health Organization
What do you think about pesticides?